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Notes of the Week

(9 December 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 54, 9 December 1933, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

LYNCHING IS once again occupying the center of public attention. The mob murder of the Clarke kidnappers at San Jose and its public condonement by California’s Governor Rolph brought on its trail wave of repercussions in mass sentiment. The spectacle of a “law and order’’ representative endorsing this highest expression of social lawlessness could not help bringing a new courage and new verve to the dregs of American society engaged in the barbarian pastime. Aside from the repetition in St. Joseph, Missouri and the liberation of the Maryland mobsters, there were just as serious reactions of a more general, wide-spread character.

* * * *

The Atlanta, Georgia, correspondent of the New York Times has the following to report on the subject:

“When Rolph’s praise of Lynching was printed, sentiments in line with the following utterances indicate the reaction of certain groups: ‘California’s my new address now’, ‘Let’s send all the niggers to California’, ‘That California man oughter be President’, etc.”

The tragic heroes of most of the Lynching bees in American history have been Negroes for the greater part. (“From 1889, when records of lynching began to be kept”, says the N.Y. Herald-Tribune of last Sunday, “to 1932, 3,745 persons lave been killed by mass violence ... 2,954 were Negroes.”) The mob act has ever been a weapon of the white rulers of the South to strike terror into the doubly exploited masses of dark-skinned toilers. By his conduct of the “legal” trial of Heywood Patterson, ruling class Judge Callahan assured all his fellow barbarians that it will not be necessary for them to “Send all the Niggers to California” to be lynched.

* * * *

THE TRIAL of Patterson and the rest of the Scottsboro boys dramatizes vividly and with striking clarity the social roots of the Lynch madness. The original frame-up, as is well-known, took place at a time when; the black share-croppers of Alabama were stirring in revolt. The Boss class and its liberal agencies are well aware of the social basis of the mob-murder phenomenon. The Southern Commission on the Study of Lynching has made some interesting observations on the causes.

* * * *

In its reports, the Commission investigates the circumstances that lead a crowd of people into the killer frenzy against the Negroes. Some hair-brained professors, it seems, explained “it all” as a sort of mid-summer madness. Lynchings do, to be sure, occur more often in the Summer than in the other seasons, the commission explains, but

“Working and living out of doors in warm weather, mid-summer unemployment, landlord-tenant relations in summer, and other factors greatly modify any all-weather explanation ... During the summer mouths, after cultivating is done and harvesting begins, there is little to occupy the time of Negro and white workers on Southern farms ... Manhunts and lynch-ings – afford an avenue of emotional escape from a life so drab and unilluminated that any alternative is welcomed.

* * * *

The honorable Commission has, willy-nilly, hit the nail on the head: “landlord-tenant relations” – that is what makes the Negro share-cropper the butt of the Lynch organizers. “A life so drab that any alternative is welcomed” – that is what makes the poor whites, declassed proletarians, the instrument in the hands of the landlord Lynch organizers. Can the basis of this species of human rabies be abolished without abolishing the system of boss class dominance which nurtures it? Can the disgrace of Lynching be wiped out in this country without a working class movement to do away with a “life so drab that any alternative is welcomed”?

* * * *

That is what every sincere fighter against Lynching must ask himself. The workers for their part must make the organized mass protest against Lynch-exponent Rolph and Legal-Lyncher Callahan a forefront task of their class battle.

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